An Israeli court appeals committee instructed the Defense Ministry on Wednesday to compensate a 3-year-old girl who lost her mother's female partner, a prison guard, in the Carmel fire some two years ago.
The decision recognized the late Faviola Bohadana, a woman who had been living with the girl’s biological mother, Rahel Algavassi, for five years prior to her death in December 2010, as the girl’s step-parent something the Defense Ministry had refused to do.
Now the ministry will have to pay the girl, Julie, compensation, as it is paying Bohadana’s two biological children. The Finance Ministry recognized Julie as the couple’s mutual daughter a year and a half ago, entitling her to a surviving relative’s allowance.
About four years ago, following the two women’s joint decision, Algavassi became pregnant by the father of Bohadana’s two children and gave birth to Julie.
The Defense Ministry argued after Bohadana’s death that the child was not entitled to compensation because she had a father and mother and was not Bohadana’s biological child.
Algavassi appealed the decision, maintaining that Julie was also Bohadana’s daughter, as the girl lived with Bohadana and depended on her economically.
The law says a child of a deceased parent is also that parent’s stepchild or adopted child up to the age of 21, “except for a stepchild who was not dependent on the deceased parent and was kept by a biological relative who was not the deceased parent’s partner.”
Rishon Letzion Magistrate Court Judge Shlomit Jakubowicz, head of the appeals panel, ruled that Julie was undoubtedly the late Bohadana’s stepchild.
She also ruled that the two women ran a joint household and the child was “dependent” on Bohadana at the time of the prison guard’s death, although she was also supported by her biological father.
The judge accepted the appeal, revoked the Defense Ministry’s decision and instructed it to give Julie all the rights of a deceased parent’s child. She also charged the ministry with NIS 10,000 in court expenses and legal fees. Attorney Michal Eden, who represented Algavassi, commended the verdict.
“Justice has been done. The judge ruled that even a non-biological child is eligible for recognition and compensation when a soldier falls in battle. Now the family can mourn the mother’s loss in peace,” she said.
“The woman I’m supposed to share this joy with is gone,” Algavassi told Haaretz. “My smile is mingled with tears. Justice has been done. I’m very happy the court was open to this other kind of family. The Defense Ministry was obstinate and mistaken all the way,” she said.